First time on this blog? Beijing Traffic Lesson: Left Turn is probably a good place to start.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Visit to Bobby Du

Hair care in China is an outdoor activity. Walk through a hutong, or even a public park, and it's not uncommon to see a 'barbershop' consisting of a kitchen chair, a bedsheet and a tackle box of scissors.

I point this out because it's something that's been worrying me. There's only so long one can go without a haircut. I got mine cut just before leaving Minnesota, some seven weeks ago, and I wasn't sure exactly what my game plan would be.

I considered just ignoring it, and coming home with long, buttery, Fabio-like locks streaming behind me.

I considered walking into a barbershop, but was warned that some barbershops are actually fronts for a business that has nothing to do with cutting hair.

I considered asking one of my Chinese friends to come with me to translate. (FRIEND, IN CHINESE: "Yes, bald. Like a monkey's butt." ME: "What did you tell him?" FRIEND: "To take a little off the top.")

But ultimately I decided to do the smart thing: Go where other non-Chinese speakers go.

I was thus recommended to one Bobby "Hair" Du, chief stylist at Eric's Salon in Lido Place, a hotel-linked mall near my apartment and a favorite of expats.

Now, if you know me, you know I'm not exactly a 'chief stylist' kinda guy. I once attempted to cut my own hair with a beard trimmer, just for reference. And he was expensive (for me) even by US standards. In a city where a barber in an actual barbershop might charge 25 yuan, maybe $3.30, Bobby commands almost ten times that.

But he also speaks English, and my English-speaking friends have decent hair.

The salon was full-on haute couture. A pierced, tattooed Englishman with a black fauxhawk sat me down and brought me coffee while I waited. The place was all hardwood, black lacquer and textured glass, with international 'chill' music playing. I have to say, I kind of enjoyed the primping - I got a shampoo/scalp massage, then Bobby came and worked his magic.

He was a soft-spoken Chinese, all in black, with a goatee. I could tell he didn't like the way I wanted my hair cut, but went along with it. I thought he did an excellent job, and at the end he said "You know, maybe for your job you need to have it parted, but I like it better mussed up." And he put some product in my hair and did so.

You know what? I like it. You may be seeing a new Henry when I get home.


Relaxing day today. I slept in, then went for a picnic in Chaoyang Park with some coworkers. I brought a chilled watermelon that cost 6 yuan, and everyone else brought food that, it turned out, averaged 100 yuan each. Doh! But we settled up, so I didn't feel like a total slacker.

The meal included roast chicken, a salad with bacon and cheese, wine, preserved duck's liver (yes, I ate it. Not bad...) bread and butter, salami, chips and other treats.

One coworker's fiance, an Australian (another 'came here and never left' story) who teaches Montassorri and is about to become principal of a small school, brought out a cricket bat and we played a little. We sat around and chatted, then cabbed back to their apartment where we played a little music, board games and chatted until it was time to go home.

Here's a building near our picnic spot:

And the random monument right by us. Even the Chinese had no idea what it's about. But for some reason it includes the word 'esperanto.'